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MLAs probe health minister on coronavirus emergency plans

What is the GN going to do if the coronavirus starts spreading in the territory, a couple of MLAs wanted to know on Monday.

Qikiqtani General Hospital, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay have isolation rooms if Nunavummiut were to be quarantined with suspected coronavirus in Nunavut, Health Minister George Hickes said in the legislative assembly on Monday. Pixabay photo

Health Minister George Hickes emphasized that the risk is very low, but he said discussions have taken place with the communities to ensure isolation suits and related equipment are stocked.

Would communities without isolation rooms for infected patients transport those individuals to other communities with isolation rooms, asked John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove.

That would depend on the severity of the impact of illness, according to Hickes.

“If it is a high impact and severe diagnosis, then we would have to take steps to potentially look at transportation, but isolation is the best course, if any space can be found in a community where people can be isolated,” he said. “It’s similar back when we had the
H1N1 virus — I think it was about eight or 10 years ago. There were a lot of lessons
learned from that so that we have been able to update and better plan for any future mass

Main also asked whether other jurisdictions would send health care workers if existing staff in Nunavut get overwhelmed.

Hickes replied that Nunavut does have existing contracts addressing that, but it would depend on the status of the other jurisdictions. If they too are fighting to keep up with demand, they wouldn’t be able to send reinforcements.

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk pointed out that many Nunavummiut travel to and from Ontario frequently and that province has close to 20 cases of coronavirus, also known as Covid-19. How can Nunavummiut be protected, he asked.

Hickes urged everyone to practise safe hygiene, as with any virus.

“Make sure you wash your hands frequently. Don’t touch your face. Make sure that you
continue to wash and cough into your sleeve to make sure that you’re not passing
anything on around you,” the health minister said.